Indietracks Festival – interview
Now in its eleventh year Indietracks is the small festival with its very own determined and delighting personality – a Louder Than War favourite in the festival calendar. Bringing together the indiepop and the cute core at a vintage railway in Derbyshire there’s a real community feel, not least due to the volunteer team at its heart.
Sarah Lay catches up with the team behind Indietracks following the announcement of the 2017 line up.
“It’s such a supportive and inspiring place to be. I went home from Indietracks 2015 and set up a clubnight with a new friend I’d met in the engine shed disco and I’m sure there are lots of similar stories!” It’s a first year on the Indietracks organising team for Beck Conway but far from a first experience of the festival. “Indietracks really does feel like a community and it’s the highlight of the year for so many of us – there’s nothing better than pitching up at the campsite on the Friday and waiting for all your friends to arrive for a weekend of silliness and good music! It’s such a supportive and inspiring place to be.”
Supportive, inspiring – as Louder Than War had it in 2015 ‘magical’ – Indietracks may be small in size but there is a big, big love for it from the indiepop scene it represents, the community for which it becomes an annual party for friends old and new. Now in its eleventh year it knows itself well, and team member Nat Hudson explains its beginnings on a vintage railway in the Derbyshire countryside, “The festival was the idea of a guy called Stuart Mackay, who worked at the Midland Railway in Butterley restoring steam trains. The railway holds various events throughout the year, like vintage weeks, fireworks displays and Santa specials, and Stuart thought it would make a great venue for an indiepop festival.
“I don’t think he’d promoted any shows before that point, and at the time it felt quite crazy and really ambitious, but the railway managers and staff backed him all the way. There was a small one-night event in April 2007 which sold out, possibly taking Stuart by surprise! That was followed by the first weekend festival in July 2007, which Stuart organised with Emma, Dan and the railway. They really did all the hardest work in setting up the festival from scratch.
“The railway’s just an amazing location, with a picturesque outdoor area overlooking the trains, a locomotive shed, and a tin tabernacle church, and it works perfectly for a music festival.”
Familiar faces pop up each year you return to Indietracks but its never felt exclusive, or anything but laid-back and friendly. Nat said, “We’ve been really lucky in that lots of people keep coming back, and we really appreciate it. It’s also really nice meeting people that are attending for the first time, as the steam train trips and railway attractions make it quite a special place to hold a festival. I still can’t quite believe we’re able to organise a DIY/indiepop festival at a 1950s steam railway!”
Beck adds, “Diversity and inclusivity are really important to us and we try to make sure that those values are reflected in all aspects of the festival – the line-up, the facilities that we have on site and the policies that we have in place. We want everybody to have fun and feel welcome at Indietracks and this year we’ve published a statement on safety to emphasise this and to let people know who to go to if they do experience problems.”
2017 sees the festival headlined by The Wedding Present, Cate Le Bon, and Martha leading the line-up for a host of indiepop, cutecore and accessibly experimental acts. Also joining the organising team this year are Emma Kupa (herself well know a a performer at Indietracks and beyond with bands Standard Fare and Mammoth Penguins) and Jasmine Allen, but the whole team has been involved in booking and are excited for different acts to take to the makeshift stages. Jasmine said, “I’m really excited to see The Hearing – the project of Ringa Manner from Helsinki, Finland. I know she is going to bring a really unique sound to the festival – looping atmospheric sounds and combining strong rhythms with synth and pop melodies. And I’m looking forward to dancing to Chorusgirl, TeenCanteen, Kid Canaveral, and Suggested Friends!”
Emma added, “There’s so many I am excited for! The Tuts will put on a fantastic show – they’re going from strength to strength – and I’m excited to see Cate Le Bon headline.”
Andy explains the booking for the festival begins almost as soon as one has finished, “It’s pretty much a continual loop, although we definitely take a break in August! We speak to bands all year round, but I guess the preparation really starts around November.
“We’ve been really lucky this year in that lots of bands on our ideal list said ‘yes’, including Cate Le Bon, The Wedding Present and Martha, who I think are a fantastic mix of headliners. I think we’ve got a nice combination this year of familiar faces like Joanna Gruesome, The Tuts, and The Wave Pictures, and some new people that have never played before, like Shopping, Peaness and Personal Best.”
A lot of bands on the line up are signed to a handful of well known and well loved indie labels – among them Fortuna POP! which closed this year after 20 years in business. As much a part of the community as bands and music lovers Andy muses on what the loss of the label means to the scene, “Fortuna POP! was an incredible label that released many of my favourite records, and some of my favourite Indietracks moments – like Allo Darlin’, The Pains, Martha – were from bands on that label. Sean was also a great inspiration and help to other labels, especially when they were starting out, and also promoted shows for hundreds of other bands over the years. It will be really interesting to see how any existing or new labels might step into that space, and I hope that bands like Joanna Gruesome, Martha and The Spook School find a great new home.
“We won’t be starting an Indietracks label though – it seems incredibly stressful, and we’re busy enough!”
Indietracks Festival takes place at Midland Railway Centre, Derbyshire between 28-30 July 2017. Headliners this year are The Wedding Present, Cate Le Bon and Martha, tickets are available on the website. You can also find the festival on Facebook and Twitter. Find the playlist of Indietracks 2017 line up on Spotify.
Images by Sarah Lay.